The Infant Brain, Redux

An interesting follow-up if you enjoyed reading about the development of the infant brain last week: Seed Magazine interviews Alison Gopnik, asking about her research and “why everything we think we know about babies is wrong“.

Seed: You describe children as being “useless on purpose.” What do you mean by that?

AG: It’s related to one of the basic things that came out of our research: Why do children exist at all? It doesn’t make tremendous evolutionary sense to have these creatures that can’t even keep themselves alive and require an enormous investment of time on the part of adults. That period of dependence is longer for us than it is for any other species, and historically that period has become longer and longer.

The evolutionary answer seems to be that there is a tradeoff between the ability to learn and imagine — which is our great evolutionary advantage as a species — and our ability to apply what we’ve learned and put it to use.

The article also mentions how Gopnik believes “Freud’s and Piaget’s conceptions of young children’s theory of mind are wrong”. A recent (correlative) study has shown that she may be correct.